Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Obviously, This Post has no Photos.

Our race photos arrived in my inbox today. Photos taken by a multitude of professional photographers, stationed along the marathon route, either crouching at the side of the road or lofted high above the course, documenting our 26.2 miles from the bucket of a crane.

In every one of his photos, my husband looks strong and lean, handsome and athletic. He appears, to all the world, a marathoner.

In every one of mine, I look like a troll who crawled out from beneath a bridge. Or at least, as someone who should reconsider ever appearing in public wearing a tank top again.

The strong, dedicated athlete who lives in my brain never put in an appearance. The veteran marathoner who ran speed drills and hill repeats, who studiously counted protein grams and worked on core strength...? She never showed up, either. In my heart, I am a gazelle, fleet-footed and strong; in my race photos I am a chunky, middle-aged woman with frightening posture, lumbering toward an uncertain finish.

I want you to know, I ran a spectacular race. No, it wasn't the fastest or, clearly, the most photogenic, but I ran cheerfully for five hours. I enjoyed every bit of the Lake Superior shoreline. I never once turned on my ipod and I was never once tempted to quit.

In the past, I have had to expend a tremendous amount of energy beating down a mental chorus of doubt and despair, fending off the thoughts that I will never, ever finish, that the whole endeavor is foolish and that I would really, really like to quit.

This time there was only one, clear directive, "Run faster."

And I did. I sped up, slowly and consistently, throughout the race. My last mile was my fastest mile--who does that? Never me before and certainly not that lady in the photos, if one were to judge by the visual record.

It's a good reminder, isn't it? We never can tell, to look at a person, what's going on beneath the surface. We are not privy to their inner lives. We think we are seeing a bus driver, a lawyer, a waitress; never realizing that underneath they are a novelist crafting a new world, or a passionate lover of latin dance.....

Or maybe, a long-time runner who, having seen her fair share of crappy race photos in the past, had the good sense to pose for a picture BEFORE the race.

In that one, I look adorable.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Shhhhhh...... Just between us.

Have you met my husband, yet? He's super. A good man and a good father. (Don't ask the kids- they don't know a blessed thing. They think anyone who makes them fold laundry and eat the food I prepare for them instead of just subsisting on spicy Cheetos and Dr. Pepper is some sort of child abusing monster. Hubby believes his job is to raise them to be healthy, happy, ethical adults and also to protect me, their mother, from the constant stream of begging and demands for my attention. Good job, honey! Keep it up!)

He has also, admirably, become more environmentally conscious as he has gotten older. Awesome. Again, good job. I love him and respect him and would never, ever keep anything from him...

Except maybe this.

His environmental action has coalesced around eliminating plastic. Laudable goal. Yes. We could all stand to reduce the amount of plastic we consume. However...

I recently stumbled across several blogs from folks striving to become plastic free. Free. From. All. Plastic. Which, do not misunderstand me, is flat out awesome. Peruse their posts and the herculean task they have taken on becomes apparent. No plastic beverage containers, obviously. No liquid detergent. No powdered detergent, if it comes with a plastic measuring cup. No kleenex. (little plastic window on top.) No stretchy, moisture wicking running clothes. No milk- cow, soy or otherwise- in non-glass containers. (That film isn't wax, folks, it's plastic.) No disposable pens. No shampoo. No hair gel. No obscenely delicious salted dark chocolate almonds in the handy, resealable bag, even if they are vegan. No wine with plastic corks. Nothing shipped or stored or wrapped in plastic. Look around you. All that stuff? NONE OF IT.

Holy cow.

Let me say right off, that they all, to a person, have noted that you can't avoid the stuff 100%. Gonna' buy your pinto beans in the bulk section of the grocery store and put them in your own, reusable container? Guess what they were shipped to the store in? Right. A great big plastic bag.

Still, they are striving to do the very best they can, against a staggering reality and I think that is amazing. Amazing and depressing and daunting. Especially when it is pointed out that every thing ever made out of plastic still exists.

I need to lie down.

The reality of how much of the stuff is floating around out there is exhausting to contemplate. If Hubby so much as catches wind that there are folks who have managed to go so hardcore, my life will become roughly one zillion percent more difficult. As much as I am working to reduce our own plastic footprint, I'm not sure I'm ready for the headache of canning my own tomatoes (metal cans being lined in plastic) pressing homemade tofu and making my own deodorant--especially since the entire U.S. aspirin supply is tucked away in tiny, plastic bottles.

But maybe I can sort of eeeeeaase into it-- which really isn't like me at all. Normally, the challenge of something like this grabs me and I am ALL IN, BABY! This one, however, buckles my mind in the sheer enormity of it. Back-to-back marathons seem more possible. Building a time machine out of rubble seems like it might work, comparatively. So here's the plan:
       I'm going to pick five things that I can find non-plastic alternatives for. And when that gets absorbed into our daily habits, I'll pick five more. It seems like such a small amount that you kind of wonder if it could possibly make any difference. Then you multiply five by 52 weeks in the year, and -BAM!- 260 plastic items NOT added to the floating seas of garbage in the ocean. Then 520, then 780.... Maybe somewhere in there I'll actually let Hubby in on the plan.... But not until I find dark chocolate salted almonds in a glass container and a wine box with a biodegradable liner. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

And You Shall Call Me The Gray Enchantress!

My son begs me daily to dye my hair. Apparently, he is having none of the "aging gracefully" attitude I am trying to embrace and the white stripes which have started to bookend my face verily annoy him. Personally, I think they make me look rakish.

     "Mom." he begins, all high-school seriousness, "you HAVE to dye it... You are too young to have gray hair."

     "But, darling," I always counter, "if I dye it, how will people know that I'm a super-villain?"

     "At least stop pulling your hair back, then.  It's not so bad when you leave your bangs down."

     "What?! And cover the temples of doom? Never!"

I don't know, I strongly suspect that this little plan of mine is going to backfire. Rather than encouraging my kids to resist this hateful world of anti-aging creams and silicone injections, they might just take in their crazy, decrepit old mother and run for the cosmetic interventions as fast as they can, using their college funds to bank roll eye jobs and Botox.

And it's not as if I don't understand the impulse. The other day I caught a look at myself in the mirror and realized that cute is on its way out. (Actually, cute might have vacated the premises quite some time ago.) I understood that I cannot count on any sort of residual attractiveness to engender warm feelings in others. No conversations started simply because I looked like a pleasant person.

    "Lady," I admonished, "you had best take up a very interesting hobby."

The pisser is, I couldn't think of any! Right now, I have all the hobbies I want-- eating, napping and watching tv shows from the seventies on Netflix. I'm too damn tired for anything else. This does not bode well. Especially since time is rapidly running out.

I had breakfast with my peeps the other morning. ("Peeps" being the sort of word I love to torture my kids with-- like "totes" and "YOLO." Children are so intolerant of blatant uncool-ness, even if it is intentional. It makes it easy to torment them. You should try it.) One friend was updating us as to the state of a new, neighborhood cafe and it's sadly inattentive and careless young staff. Then she mentioned that she had a dentist appointment and I chimed in with a fascinating tidbit about a freakishly dangerous bug I managed to contract, when suddenly I stopped, looked at the table and asked;

     "Wait a minute. Have we just been comparing medical problems and complaining about the sorry attitude of young people today?"

Then we burst out laughing.

Holy smokes, that sneaks up on you easily. In the blink of an eye, "Where's the party?" morphs into, "Where's my reading glasses?" "I'm gonna' hurl!" has become, "I gotta' pee!"-- which, when I think about it, is probably a lateral move. If I'm going to become the sort of interesting, wise and tough old broad I aspire to, I need a plan and fast! Quick! Before that cruise ship has sailed.

So I need a new hobby, is what I'm saying. I need to be an expert at something other than cheap red wines and Gilligan's Island trivia. Less along the lines of the care of feeding of house cats and more like giant metal sculptures I weld in the back yard. Or Bollywood dance, which I am seriously, seriously considering. In a pinch, I could always fall back on super-villainy. I've already got the hair.


Thursday, March 27, 2014


Well, that's it, then. 
Miss Teen Wonder is set for college. Papers signed, money sent, room-mate chosen. Finito. Barring a spring semester senior year prank bordering on a felony, its all over but the crying.
Actually, that isn't true. I've been crying on and off since last Sunday. Weeping copious and unassailable tears. I can't even explain it, except to say that I am just so proud- of her mostly, but also me. I had a baby and now she is a woman; a beautiful, funny, smart, capable woman. And I helped get her there. She wasn't eaten by wolves, or inadvertently left at the side of the road... I only ever dropped her the once.
Okay, twice. 
Truthfully, I made so many mistakes. So. Many. I don't think in the past 18 years there has been even one night that I've gone to bed and thought, "Nailed it!" Some days the very best parenting I was capable of, when confronted with yet another demand to make a PBJ, hand over a cookie or tie a shoe, was to NOT just turn and walk silently from the house, making my way to Florida, there to live under an assumed name, so help me god!--(because no one would ever think to look for me there, given my well known feelings about humidity and sharks and giant squid, that's why)--but instead to calmly hand the little despot a snack or tie the darn shoe. Sometimes the smallest victories are the most important.
Luckily, kids are like seeds. They don't need much, just don't step on them and they start to grow toward the light. You, however,  have no idea what you are growing. You think maybe a nice orderly row of snapdragons, but instead you get this funky, creeping ivy that refuses to stand upright and grow in a nice, straight line. It makes you crazy! You rant and rave about these stupid snapdragons that won't grow like they should and then one day the neighbor compliments you on your beautiful ivy. She's been trying to grow ivy for years, but the only thing that comes up in her garden are pole beans.
Go figure.
This winter was super sad and all around sucky.  Never-ending cold and rotten news. Winters like this make me feel like I'm living a Russian tragedy. Cue the wolves.
I'd pretty much settled into a truly spectacular sulk-- everything is dumb, what have I ever accomplished anyways, yada, yada, yada... then this. This realization of looming adulthood. This beautiful young lady that I can claim maybe, generously, one tiny sliver of responsibility for. I know that the timing is crazy, right? We're not even close to the end of the school year. IT'S SUPPOSED TO SNOW TONIGHT,  PEOPLE. There is nary a cap and gown in sight, and then we have the whole, entire summer--but what can I say? For whatever reason, my heart feels like it's caught in a vice. Leave me alone for five minutes and I scurry downstairs to stare, incredulous, at baby pictures. I am overwhelmed and proud and heartbroken and grateful, so very grateful.
And, also, I'm crying again. 
I may never stop.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Might Not 100% Stink. Maybe.

Today is the first day I really feel close to the sort of enthusiasm the New Year generally brings out in a first child, perfectionist-wanna-be such as myself. My dearly loved grandma passed away just before Christmas in a manner that, although she was ninety actual years old, we all continue to think of as sudden and completely unexpected. I was counting on another decade with the lady, and secretly hoping for more. Sigh.

My favorite picture.
On New Year's Day my attitude was sour. Whereas normally I love the thought of New Year's and am all about shiny, new beginnings, this year I was all, "Bah. Stupid 2014. I'm going back to bed." It just seemed like too much work to contemplate. Plus, this is the year Miss Teen Wonder leaves for college, which, when she isn't driving me totally mental, seems end-of-the-world, zombie apocalypse terrible. Luckily, as tends to happen with those eager to flee the nest, she is often belligerent enough to make me want to toss her out in the snow, so I think I'll survive.

Yesterday morning I felt the first stirrings of enthusiasm, but that was quickly squelched by two weeks of procrastinated errands, paperwork, laundry and a houseful of uncooperative children. But today, people, today I might admit to a returning optimism about the upcoming year. Not enough to make actual resolutions because, blech, hard work, but enough to look forward to the good things the new year has in store. For example:
     1) I'm starting a new volunteer gig with an Alzheimer's group home, something I've wanted to do for a very long time.
     2) Hubby and I just signed up for Grandma's marathon, which is our first non-Twin Cities marathon and also means a trip to see my sister and brother-in-law. Fun, except for the actual running part.
     3) I will probably break down and let Little Man get a hedgehog this fall. Given that our current pet, the neurotically phobic cat, Speckles, hates us, this will most likely be a welcome change.
     4) Hubby is busy planning our "very-last-trip-all-together-before-Boo-leaves-for-college" summer vacation. It will be a two-week long road trip to the East Coast involving periodic camping and allowing Hubby to complete his goal of swimming in all five Great Lakes. The kids are hugely opposed. It will be character-building.

I'm sure there is more, but for this morning, it's enough. I've even mustered the energy to make one resolution; to act more often than not on my good intentions. To not let the impulse to meet a friend, send a card or visit with a neighbor fall victim to the tyrannical relentlessness of daily responsibility. To follow up on the little acts that make life sweeter and damn the errands that get in the way. If I can follow that one, single resolution, 2014 will be a mighty fine year, after all.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Forever Young.

I just received a sample of a new beauty product; a "finishing cream." According to the text on the ad, it is "...not a moisturizer, primer or foundation."  It's job is to use its "cushiony texture" to " erase the look of lines, wrinkles and pores."

So, it's spackle, right? Either that or some sort of biological weapon that causes partial blindness within a twenty foot radius. Either way, I'm a big fan. Thank you, scientists, for dedicating your considerable intelligence toward saving innocent bystanders from my decrepitude.

The timing couldn't be better as I've been working on assimilating a new bit of information. I bent down to lace up my shoe and realized I'm getting serious old lady skin on my legs; a little bit translucent, blue veins, chapped. Just now I took a minute to contemplate my arms and realized if I rotate my wrists in a circle, the skin on my arms looks just like a towel when you are wringing the water out of it. Amazing. I spent five minutes perfecting my new party trick.

The thing is, I don't feel like I should be cowering in shame. Au contraire. I feel just like a baby who has accidentally pulled their foot into their mouth for the first time. Like, "Holy hell! How did that happen?" The baby isn't horrified or judgy. The baby is fascinated. That's how I feel; fascinated, not horrified.

Okay, if I were entirely honest, it's probably more like 80% fascinated, 20% horrified, but mostly it isn't bothering me at all. Because I am above all that, that's why. Or I'm striving to and it would be a whole lot easier if everyone would get on board, instead of fighting so freaking hard to stay 21 years old.

Folks are expending a lot of energy attempting to convince themselves that we have somehow found the secret to perpetual youth when, really, it seems more like an extended adolescence. To my mind running around, saying things like "50 is the new 30!" is pretty much horse feathers. HORSE FEATHERS, you whippersnappers!

First off, my mom has a picture of my Grandparents in their fifties and every time I look at it I can not believe how great they look. I mean, if 50 was the old 50, current logic dictates they should have been hunched over their walkers hissing at the sun not rocking a jet black beehive and mini-skirt, showing off their legs. (Oh, Grandpa...) I will bet you serious dollars that fifty-year-olds have ALWAYS felt younger than whatever fifty-year-olds are supposed to feel like.

Secondly, behaving like an insecure teenager doesn't make you young. It makes you annoying. Teenagers are terrible role models. Their endless fussing and primping, while important to those trying to figure out who, exactly they are with their new independence, does not translate well to adults. It comes off as peevish and vapid. It's like we don't even care what sort of people we've turned out to be as long as our foreheads are immobile and line free.

And none of this makes for what truly keeps our spirits youthful. For that, and this may seem to run a little counter to my argument, you need to set your intentions even younger. Think six or maybe seven years old. Shoot for a sense of wonder and unbounded energy and a raucous and slightly annoying sense of humor. Have a willingness to play in the dirt. Moon your brother and kiss your mom. Never wear matching socks-- life is short, people! Decorate everything with glitter and you will feel years younger, I promise.  Besides, that's a much easier physical ideal to live up to. Pudgy belly, flat chest, wild and unfettered hairstyle....? Check, check and CHECK.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Plus, There is CAKE!

Reasons why to never, ever throw a party.

1) The cleaning. Okay, the actual, physical work of cleaning is not the worst thing-- even though it's a total drag and takes your whole and entire Saturday and has the kids practically up in arms by time supper rolls around. Nope. Not the worst thing. The worst thing is that after a couple of hours, it occurs to you that no one's house should be such a mess as to require hour upon relentless hour of scrubbing to make it hospitable to people lucky enough to not live here. You start to question your worth as a grown-ass person. Questions start to present themselves; "Is that toothpaste on the wall?" "Why are there chicken bones under the couch?" And "I sure hope those are chicken bones."  Since this whole endeavor is for your birthday, you can't help but think maybe by this decade you should have a better grasp on this whole housekeeping/cleanliness thing.

2) The dread of explaining to your guests the, um, idiosyncrasies of your bathroom. "Hold the toilet handle down for not less than 11, but no more than 14 seconds. Also, the snazzy foaming soap dispenser works just fine, you just have to pull the nozzle back up to its original position when you're done. Also, don't push down the drain plug in the sink, or we're going to have to find a nail, a hammer and a pair of pliers to get it back out." No number of fluffy, just-washed towels and fancy candle holders are going to erase the white trashiness of those instructions. Martha Stewart you are not.

3) The fear that some Lookee Lou is going to take their life in their hands and sneak a peek behind the shower curtain. Back in the day, when you and your spouse were all heady with the joy of homeownership, you looked at the cracked tile in the shower and said, "Phffffbt. How hard could that be to replace? We can totally do that." Answers: Very, and no you couldn't. Now you are battling mildew so pervasive that it has probably evolved into a sentient being. (It, too, is wondering why there are chicken bones under the couch.) Your only option at this point is to hire a bona fide professional to subdue the beast, but the hazard pay required has placed this maddeningly beyond reach.

4) You know what? The whole dang bathroom. You've seen the water from the shower drip, drip, dripping into the basement laundry room long enough to know that whole thing is going to cave in one of these days. Better just to send everyone to the Super America down the street. The bathroom is better and they can bring you back a blue raspberry slushie. It's a win/win, really.

5) You have nothing to wear. Seriously, not a thing. Yes, you manage to clothe yourselves daily, but you look terrible in all that stuff. Plus, it's dirty, or the zipper doesn't work, or it's all wine-stainy. Screw it. Put on some bright lipstick and big earrings. Start drinking early.

6) The absolute fear that not a single person is going to show up. You have been out of junior high school for a super long time by this point, but it still feels like the only folks you can con into showing up for your birthday are your cousins and that's only because their mom made them. Now you live in different states and you don't even have that safety net. People are busy. They have kids, lives, jobs. They don't want to come to your party. They want a nap. YOU want a nap. Maybe it's not too late to call your Aunt.

The reason we all do.

That moment when you look around at the many people in your home and they are talking and laughing and there is music and suddenly this party feels like you are on that old show, "This Is Your Life" and it is the very best episode ever. Your kids and their friends are there, children you have known since they were babies, and now are almost grown up people themselves. There are teeny little kids and old friends and new friends and work friends... And yes, it could be the sangria talking, but you are aglow with the wonderment of how stinking fortunate you have been your whole life to be around the people you've known--whether or not they happen to be standing in your living room at this particular moment. It is clearly the best idea you have ever had to host this party and you resolve to throw many, many more. Of course, you'll have to do something about that dang bathroom, but you can worry about that, tomorrow.